The Philippines and Indonesia ramp up the fight against illegal fishing

Illegal, unregulated and unreported (IUU) fishing has a serious impact on global fish stocks, the environment and coastal communities, as well as undermining states’ ability to manage their marine resources effectively. Our latest intelligence review demonstrates the impact IUU fishing is having on states and communities across the Asia-Pacific region – even including concerns about national security. It isn’t all bad news, though, with some excellent progress emanating from the Philippines and Indonesia related to their fight against illegal fishing.

In the Philippines – where Verumar has been working with the Bureau of Fisheries and Aquatic Resources to help tackle IUU fishing – police in Northern Samar seized bomb-making equipment in an abandoned factory in Barangay Burabod, San Antonio, in early October. Reports suggest the equipment was being used for blast fishing, an illegal practice that can shatter delicate ecosystems and makes life harder for fishermen who operate legally. A police informant said the equipment was also being used to make bombs to attack government authorities: a strong indication of the serious organised and violent criminality that can be linked to IUU fishing, and a vindication of the Philippines’ hard work to tackle it.

Apart from its links to serious crime, IUU fishing has had a terrible impact on the Philippine marine environment. Blast fishing has recently been linked to several mass-strandings of melon-headed whales; and coral reefs have been seriously damaged by fishers using the Danish Seine fishing method, which is illegal in Philippine waters. Taken together, recent news from the Philippines amply demonstrates the social and environmental harm that can be done by IUU fishing – and the need to use every available tool to tackle it, these successful local enforcement interventions being one of many areas of action. Verumar supports the Philippines in this critical fight for nature, security and prosperity by helping authorities to make the most of space-based technology, data processing and other technologies.

Indonesia invests in intelligence

In Indonesia there are signs that the government is attacking IUU fishing with renewed determination. As we reported in our September intelligence review, in July Indonesia set up the Indonesia Maritime Information Centre (IMIC), a multi-agency data-sharing centre that will help the Indonesian coastguard to better protect the country’s interests in its complex maritime space. Recent months have seen a number of incidents that have demonstrated the challenges facing the world’s largest archipelagic state. In recent weeks, Indonesian authorities have seized Vietnamese and Filipino vessels illegally fishing in Indonesian waters, even as authorities have intensified diplomatic efforts to cooperate with surrounding states. The fight against IUU fishing depends upon effective data sharing within and between states – IMIC stands as a model for this kind of work in the Asia-Pacific region.

Outside IUU fishing, Indonesia has also shown support for an innovative underwater remote sensor, designed by students at a technical university, that could help identify submarine earthquakes and tsunamis. As we note in our white paper on emerging technologies, combining this kind of remote sensing with earth observation satellite data, artificial intelligence, machine learning and efficient data processing could give Indonesia the clearest view yet of its sea space. The people of Indonesia and the wider region stand to benefit from the country’s effort to develop its maritime domain awareness – an enterprise that could help save lives and livelihoods by improving safety and law and order at sea.

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